China has defended its "no" vote at the United Nations where the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a resolution backing an Arab League plan calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down and strongly condemning human rights violations by his regime.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Friday that China believes the violence in Syria must be stopped by negotiations and that Beijing will not take sides between Assad's regime and rebels fighting it.

Thursday's vote on the Arab-sponsored resolution was 137-12 with 17 abstentions. Russia and China, who vetoed a similar resolution in the Security Council, voted against the measure along with North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and several others.